July 29, 2022
“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13 NASB)
Sin is deceitful. Sin promises pleasure and fun. Sin promises freedom and fulfillment. But Satan is the father of lies and he uses sin to lure souls into destruction. If we could only see more clearly the deceitfulness of it all! Sin may bring brief pleasure and fun, but in the end, it always brings ruin and death. Sin may promise freedom and fulfillment, but in reality, it always brings enslavement and spiritual poverty.
Not only does sin deceive, but it also hardens. Some may think that they can play around with sin, reap the temporary pleasures, and repent later. But this is a deadly game because sin hardens the heart and sears the conscience over time. Sin can harden the heart so much that a person no longer wants to listen to the word of God and no longer responds to it. Sin can make a person hostile to God and to the truth of His word.
Because of the great dangers of sin, we need to make sure that we are taking care of our hearts. We need to be very careful that our hearts don’t fall away from God. You and I can and should be helping one another with this. We need to be encouraging one another every day, urging one another to stay true to the Lord and to not be deceived by the temporary, deceitful pleasures of sin. We all could probably do a better job of this. It is an important job that each of us have from the Lord. We also need to make a commitment to be assembling with the saints on the Lord’s Day. We need to make that commitment for our own sakes as a way of strengthening our own hearts, and we need to make that commitment for our brothers and sisters. We need to encourage one another! And not just on the Lord’s Day, but every day!
Sin is deceitful. Sin hardens. Sin destroys. Would you reach out to someone today to encourage their heart? Would you reach out to give encouragement to your brethren throughout the week? Let’s strive to help one another in this way.
July 26, 2022
We live in a world filled with religious confusion. How many times have you heard someone say something like this: “I believe we’re all going to heaven; we’re just taking different paths to get there.” Or maybe you have heard something like this: “I believe all of the world’s religions are filled with truth and that they all lead people to God.” As commonplace as these statements are, it is even more common for people to have thoughts like this: “I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but I’m basically a good person, and I think God will accept me in the end!” Or, “I think the good things I have done will outweigh the bad things!”
These kinds of statements sound religious and can bring people a sense of comfort about death and the afterlife. Sometimes we in the church can even start thinking along these lines. But of course, just because something sounds good and is accepted by most people, that doesn’t mean that it is true! We need to remind ourselves what God has said. His word is the source of what is true and what is real.
In John chapter 14, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his imminent death, resurrection, and ascension back to the Father. He assures them that He is going to prepare a place for them, that He will receive them to Himself, and that they know the way where He is going. “Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” (John 14:5-6 NASB) Listen carefully to the words of Jesus. No one comes to the Father but through Jesus! Jesus is the only way! There are not many paths to God provided through various world religions. There is only one way to God, and that way is through Jesus. There is no path to God that comes from “being a pretty good person.” The only path is through Jesus, not through trying to establish our own righteousness.
No one will come to the Father except through Jesus Christ. No one! We need to know and understand this fact for our own sake, and for the sake of our loved ones, friends, and acquaintances in the world. Because He is the only way, we need to be clinging to Jesus with all our might! Because He is the only way, we need to be sharing the truth about Jesus with as many as we can. Jesus Christ will take us to the Father. May God help us to know and believe this truth.
July 19, 2022
Is there a dramatic difference between you and those in the world? It is easy to profess the Christian life. The question is, are you living the Christian life? The life that God calls us to is radically different. He calls us to holiness. He calls us to be led by the Spirit, not by our natural impulses. He calls us to walk in His love. Knowing God—having a relationship with Him—will have a profound impact on us and will most certainly be shown in the way that we live.
Jesus said, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:31-36 NASB). It is natural and common to love those who love you back. But here is the test: are you willing to love those who hate you? When someone is unkind to you, will you treat them with kindness? When someone speaks evil of you, will you give them a blessing? Are you willing to do good for those who will never care and never say thank you? Are you willing to give to those who can never pay you back?
You see, God is calling us to a higher plane! To live in this way is not natural, but God is trying to get us to move away from what comes naturally to us! He wants us to be like Him! God loves His enemies. God does good to those who do not care and to those who can never pay Him back. God is merciful and kind. He clearly demonstrated all of this when He sent His Son to die for us. When we live like God, it shows that we are truly born of Him. When we love like God, it shows that we are His children in reality—not just in empty words.
May the Lord help us to truly live on a higher plane with Him, and thereby prove that we are His children.
July 12, 2022
I’ve frequently heard 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 read at a wedding ceremony. Paul’s ode to love is beautiful and appropriate for the occasion. But there is something to notice about Paul’s definitions of love. They are actions and not feelings. This passage contains things we do and don’t do to fulfill love. This kind of love can be commanded. This kind of love is a matter of the choice of will. When we think of romantic love, we often are thinking about an emotional high which we feel towards our loved one. This emotion seems quite involuntary. Paul’s teaching about love is different from this.
Now I am all for romantic love. I suspect that Jacob had romantic love for Rachel, or he wouldn’t have worked another seven years for her. And the Song of Solomon definitely seems to be love poetry. But we need wisdom as we deal with it.
Scientists have even studied romantic love. Researchers from the University of Pavia found that the powerful emotions of new love are triggered by a molecule known as nerve growth factor (NGF). But after one year, the couples who have stayed together find their levels of NGF dropping down to the same level as singles and couples in a long-term relationship. This chemistry may be important to bonding two people together, but this emotional high does not last. Although researchers can now point to a particular molecule, the wise have always known this truth from human experience.
Marriage has its ups and downs: children, illnesses, and stress. The reality of life means our feelings of love for our spouse may also ebb and flow. We need the commanded love of 1 Corinthians to sustain romantic love. Marriage is a covenant—the vows say how you promise to treat one another, not necessarily how you will always feel. These feelings of love may also ebb and flow. The vows call on you to place your actions before feelings—to allow your actions to deepen and at times even rekindle your feelings. That’s why Paul’s teaching on love is so important. He places the emphasis on right actions. This kind of love seeks the best for the beloved.
Love sums up and encompasses every other virtue. To treat with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness is to love. Love boldly acts with the other’s best interest at heart. Love is the fulfillment of the law. Love encompasses all the virtues. This kind of love seeks the best for the other. This is the love that can fulfill vows which say for better or for worse until death do us part.